In the early 1900s, Karen Horney was one of the first female psychoanalysts to practice under Sigmund Freud. Horney’s theories challenged traditional Freudian views on sexuality and the inherent psychological differences between men and women. 

Horney studied unconscious anxiety, coping styles and personality traits. Her studies preluded that growth can be inhibited by anxiety when one’s needs are not being met.  During this COVID-19 pandemic, American’s are in uncharted territory of the unknown and it is important to be resilient and understand how to cope with today’s so-called “new normal.”  Horney believed an individual’s anxiety stems from childhood experiences like loneliness or isolation. She suggested there are three coping styles or strategies; moving toward people, moving against people and moving away from people.  

Moving Toward People. This style involves connection and dependence. As children experience anxiety, say getting into trouble or being scared of the dark, they often seek out their parents for attention and affection to find relief from their anxiety.  As adults, this coping strategy is used in personal relationships to express a deep need for acceptance or love. 

Moving Against People. This coping strategy is a display of aggression. In American society today, bullying in school is a major topic of concern.  Children who move against people often bully others and fight when they are dealing with social anxiety or trouble at home. These assertive children, and adults, deal with their insecurities by lashing out at or exploiting others.  

Moving Away from People. This style of coping relies on detachment and isolation. Some individuals, both children and adults, manage their anxiety by removing themselves from whatever situation is at hand.  These folks withdraw to avoid stressful situations, they tend to avoid things like love and friendships, and they crave privacy. Those who move away from people are typically self-sufficient and as adults, they gravitate to careers that have minimal interaction with others.

Self-realization is one of the most effective skills in psychology, as it helps you to understand why you think, feel and react the way you do. During this unprecedented time, it is more important than ever for Americans to focus on their mental health and coping with this situation. For those who are out of work, those who are struggling financially and mentally, or have been personally affected by the virus, please remember that you are not alone. Reach out to friends and family, be there for one another, stay home, wash your hands, and find healthy ways to cope with what you’re going through.